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Gov. Cuomo signs bill allowing Utica school district to enforce mandatory kindergarten

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- If you live in the city of Utica plan on strapping a backpack on your five year old this fall. Gov. Cuomo signed a bill Wednesday giving the school district legal grounds to enforce mandatory kindergarten.

"What it will do is require any five year old in the city of Utica to attend kindergarten if they were born before December of that year," said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi who supported the bill.

The Board of Education is welcoming it with open arms.

"With global competition that we have it's important for kids to have a really good foundation at an early age to move forward and be successful with mandatory testing," said Chris Salatino, the president of the Board of Education.

Until now laws required students to start school at age six. Now it's age five. But, for kids who don't turn five until October or November, that means starting kindergarten at age four. Assemblyman Brindisi says those parents have an option.

"Some parents choose that their child may not be ready for kindergarten at four years old. They want to keep them home for that additional year. This still allows them to do that, but once they turn six years old they cannot bypass kindergarten. They have to go to Kindergarten before they can enter into the first grade," he said.

This does not affect students who are home schooled or attend non-public schools. But public school teachers say not only will this give kids a better foundation for the future, it will solve attendance problems across the school district.

"Sometimes we have kids that come to kindergarten when they're five, but they miss a lot of school. So, this will be a good way for us to sit down with parents and explain it's mandatory now, your child has to be here, they're five, and that might help us with attendance because really they need to be in school to do well," said Kristen Edic, a kindergarten teacher at Watson Williams Elementary.

The Board of Education plans on implementing this requirement for the 2014, 2015 academic school year.

"We'll have to work on seeing how this fits in with our normal kindergarten- it's mandatory. So we're probably going to have an influx of students I would imagine that may not have been part of going into kindergarten because it wasn't mandatory prior to this bill being signed," said Salatino.

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